Everton 2 Norwich City 0

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Welcome to Goodison Park.

Wipe your feet and leave the points at the door.

Chris Hughton’s Norwich were simply the latest in a long line of barbecue-coated Christians thrown to Roberto’s rampant lions in the County Road Coliseum.

And if that appears condescending towards the Canaries then it’s meant to. That’s right, every head-patting, dismissive comment goes out to the outraged denizens of that forum who were hoping to ‘stuff our words down our throats’.

Look, look, he’s talking about us!

In the unlikely event that Norwich had escaped without a routine hiding, by an Everton side that never even needed the explosive skills of the injured Ross Barkley, you could bet on the life of your seven foot sibling who you keep in the wood shed that they would have been giving it the proverbial large one in the comments here.

So, to quote Delia – oh yeah, he’s going to do it, he’s going to be THAT obvious – where are you? WHERE ARE YOU? Let’s be ‘aving you…

Not really, we’re not interested in your bumpkin banter in the slightest. Sorry to build your hopes up like that.

The game itself was kind of routine for the first 70 minutes or so. Everton firstly unveiled Aiden Bad Kecks on the pitch and then had most of the possession and did most of the attacking while the visitors sat back, tried to frustrate the Blues and hoped that they could snatch something on the break through the distinctly misfiring Ricky van Wolkswinkel or from the dangerous set-pieces of Robert Snodgrass.

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Romelu Lukaku missed a sitter when he bottled out of running into the post and glanced his header wide, but before you could say ‘we need to turn some of this possession into goals’ Gareth Barry collected a pass from the Belgian on 23 minutes, advanced unchallenged and then BA-DOOM!, let fly with a swerving shot that almost scorched the Park End net. If John Ruddy got anything on it he would have been left dancing around with his hands tucked in his armpits like someone who gets a bowl out the oven using a deceptively damp tea towel.

For all the great passing, positional interchanging and playing through, between, on, around and even despite the lines, Everton are thrashing home some old fashioned ‘FUCK OFF!’ blammers this season.

Rumour has it that it’s because David Moyes never allowed the players to shoot.

True story that.

On 59 minutes Leighton Baines, back in the side and reminding everyone just what a footballer he is, was fouled 10 yards outside the Norwich area. Just as someone was saying ‘Is there anyone apart from Wayne Rooney who takes more free-kicks and thinks he’s boss at them without scoring than Mirallas’ the scruff’s-dog-on-a-bit-of-rope-faced winger curled the ball inside Ruddy’s right-hand post to the delight of all the Evertonians but especially the lad in the hat sat behind Martinez who on Match of the Day appeared to be up completely losing his shit with furious delight before the ball even left Mirallas’s foot.

Talking of televised celebrations, you have to say ‘fair play’ to Kevin Nolan and Joe Cole for the way they went nuts when Mark Noble scored against Cardiff. They weren’t putting that on.

Back to Everton though. With 20 minutes to go Martinez withdrew Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman, replacing them with John Heitinga and Steven Naismith, switched to a three-man defence and then watched as the visitors began to pour forward.

It’s hard to know what exactly caused the change in the pattern of the game – was it Hughton introducing the tricky Nathan Redmond and his players simply taking more risks or was it down to Everton’s unfamiliar formation? There’s also the fact that the often understated and often underrated Osman and Pienaar are crucial in the way the Toffees keep the ball.

It’s as much about the passes that the pair of little schemers don’t play as the ones they do.

They are soccer jazz.

Whatever the reason, Norwich threatened the age-old Goodison ‘fingernail finale’ as Bradley bleedin’ Johnson became Lothar Mattheus and the Blues’ defence was put under more pressure than we are used to seeing at home. Tim Howard was not to be beaten though and the Blues eventually saw out the little spell of quite endearing Norwich pluck. There was even time for a quite marvelous display of tenacity and skill from Naismith as he out-fought and then skinned two hapless yellow-shirted stooges out on the touchline.

Points in the bag then, as well as the first new signing, and rumours that another big Belgian unit is in line to replace Nikica Jelavic when the Croatian is dragged kicking and screaming to Hull City.

‘Seriously, no one else? Just Hull? What sort of agent are you?’

One piece of good news for Jelavic is that he is no longer in line for the worst penalty of the season award. That’s now nailed on for Jason Puncheon thanks to his creation of rare beauty at White Hart Lane. Fancy achieving your dream of becoming a professional player and then being known only for one of the worst spot kicks ever taken and going for a Tom Tit halfway through a match.

Bravo sir, bravo.

Norwich City Preview

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Thanks for all the messages informing us that a raw, unfiltered version of this preview was released onto the market in error on Thursday night. Rumours have it that a couple of readers in Scotland actually overheated and died from reading it. The present version has been bashed and repressed, if you consume it in small quantities and drink plenty of fluids you should be just fine. Go on, just rub a bit on your gums.

So right then, yeah, Norwich City.

You know, you sit down in front of your computer and you wait for something to leap into your mind that you can work with – a touchstone, a jumping off point – but when you think of the present day Canaries all that really springs to mind is the innocent, mournful face of Chris Hughton, wishing he was still in his tight shorts and Hummel sweatshirt putting the cones out down at the Lane instead of stuck in the full glare, front and centre, dressed like one of those fellas at the services who tries to get you to sign up for the RAC.

Norwich really are the anonymous team of the Premier League this season, with even the usual drab suspects like Fulham and West Bromwich Albion having a bit of drama. Whenever the new Baggies coach played in goal was he known as ‘Pepe Mel at one’?

What? If you think that’s an anachronistic cultural reference then please, don’t read on.

Anyway, a lot of Evertonians think that we get a raw deal on Match of the Day, but it seems like by the time Norwich come on everyone has turned over to watch Arthur Negus on Antiques Roadshow.

Told you.

So as we said,  we’re struggling here. It’s hard, not to start dragging up things that have been battered to death already, like Delia being arseholed on the pitch at Carrow Road and all that. That said, every time you see Alex Ferguson sat next to Bobby Charlton – inexplicably dressed like the fella on the Sandeman Port label – watching Manchester United having their latest collective emotional breakdown, do you not envisage him at some point, when the crowd properly turn on David Moyes, taking to the pitch with a microphone to start pleading with them for patience?

‘I’m going Bobby, they’re getting the hairdryer treatment, the fucking lot of them. I’ve had enough of this. No, I won’t sit down, they respect me, they’ll listen to reason.’

Of course you do.

Anyway, Norwich. Of course they were the Blues’ opponents on the opening day of the season, when looking back at the match report, Roberto Martinez and his new team veritably ‘set their stall out’ for what’s happened since.

We reckon if you actually go back and read all that then it saves us padding this bit out much longer.

Oh, and talking of linking back to previous bits on here, the latest ‘revelation’ about Thomas Hitzlsperger pretty much backs up what we suggested back before that West Hame game when the players wore the rainbow laces. The picture that Hitzlsperger paints of life for a gay fella in professional football is not the living hell that many outsiders like to automatically assume it is. He certainly doesn’t come across as any sort of victim.

Maybe more current players would be comfortable with going public about the fact that they are gay if newspapers didn’t feel the need to make such a big song and dance about it just to underline the fact that, like, they are dead cool with it and, you know, it shouldn’t really be a story but, you know, with the poor dears having to put up with all these bigoted cunts in football and that.

In other news, Everton are reported to be close to signing someone and it’s widely believed to be Aiden McGeady. Again, we’ve been over this before – everyone seems to assume that he’s last but he must have something that Martinez admires and, well, the Toffees’ chief hasn’t got much wrong so far.

The way his teams play, ideally they pull sides apart on the counter-attack, but because they dominate possession it can often lead to periods of walking-paced stalemate as the opposition retreat to the edge of their own box. When that happens you need players who can go past opponents and ‘force this issue’ from almost a standing start. Gerard Deulofeu is that sort of player and so is Ross Barkley – the Everton boss must think that McGeady brings a bit more of the same. Hopefully that’s the case.

Going back to Barkley, there is still occasionally talk of United making some sort of bid for him, and while we normally try to be as realistic as possible about transfers and the motivations that make them happen, you have to think that only some sort of short-sighted maniac would advise him to go there right now. In fact, any midfielder would have to think twice before being parachuted into that whole cluster-fuck. Imagine the pressure on him to bring back the glory days singlehandedly, especially on someone as young as Barkley.

‘Right then son, David’s invested £50 million in you. Pardon? £55 million? What? I thought we agreed… Seriously? Again? Can someone get David on the phone please. Anyway, that’s not your problem. As I was saying…’

At Everton Barkley is guaranteed his place, in a team built around him by a manager who has already shown he believes in him and can bring the best out of him, and he’s playing in a side with a lot more confidence than United who, as things stand, have more chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League. If not too much changes between now and the end of the season then he looks like a near certainty to be going to the World Cup, after which his profile worldwide could be off the scale, putting him in a much stronger position than he is in now to negotiate terms with whoever he plays for next season.

Why would you jeopardise that?

Finally, did you read Big Sam’s email to the West Ham fans giving it loads about ‘coming out fighting’? In other words, ‘this lot are going to have to sell more wrist pamphlets and pay up my contract, Big Sam don’t walk away from the Benjamins’. It’s almost stirring stuff, until you get to the crux of his plan of attack, which is to wait until they get their defenders back which should see their ‘clean sheet ratio’ back up.

St Crispin’s Day it ain’t.

Right then, er, Efan Ekoku, Pat ‘van den Howitzer’, Mike Walker, that’s your lot.

Norwich City 2 Everton 2

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After a summer of uncertainty, capped off by that directionless display against Real Betis, Evertonians got their first real sight of Roberto Martinez’s Blues at Carrow Road and all the signs were pretty encouraging.

The narrative that’s been written ahead of time is that Martinez is going to take David Moyes’s supposedly prosaic but professional grafters and turn them into a swashbuckling but naïve side destined to sit at either end of a 4-3 result every other week.

The reality, in this first match anyway, was his side produced a performance that was largely reminiscent of so many away games in the Premier League last season. Everton were often superb in possession, operating as if they were the home team for long periods, but almost mesmerised themselves, such was their dominance, until their opponents inevitably scored with one of their infrequent attacks.

The 4-2-3-1 system, with Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pienaar and Ross Barkley supporting Nikica Jelavic, looks a winner. Marouane Fellaini was allowed to play in the deeper, defensive position he prefers, but having Leon Osman alongside him meant he never had to take the ball off the defenders and start attacks, the part of playing that role he struggles with.

Also noticeable by its absence was that slavish devotion to rolling the ball out from the back that was such a feature of preseason. Tim Howard mixed it up and so the Blues never became too predictable as they did against Betis.

The only real revelation then was the performance of Barkley. Playing as part of that advanced midfield three, as opposed to the deeper role he’s occupied in the past, allowed him to utilise his strengths – his strong running and powerful shooting – to devastating effect.

Last season, when he was maybe asked to do a job that required too much restraint and maturity, he was constantly trying to over-elaborate in dangerous positions and there was definitely a creeping feeling of ‘what’s all the fuss about with this kid’? Against Norwich though, especially when Everton counter-attacked, he looked terrific.

We said last season that we lack someone who, when teams are camped out on the edge of their own box, can simply power into the area and make something happen, and Barkley looks the part. He’s being compared to all sorts after this display, like Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard, but his performance was most reminiscent of Thomas Gravesen at his best, and despite what many think of the deranged Dane that’s meant as a compliment.

He certainly couldn’t have picked a better time to score his first goal in the top flight, a rasper from the edge of the box after good work from Fellaini and possibly the Premier League’s most underrated player, Seamus Coleman.  That came on 61 minutes, 10 minutes after Steven Whittaker had given the home side the lead.

The former Glasgow Rangers right-back broke through a cluster of blue shirts with a combination of skill and good fortune before bending a low shot past Tim Howard. He thought he had scored and wheeled away to celebrate, only for the ball to strike the inside of the post and rebound straight back to his feet. The lucky twat couldn’t miss.

It was to Everton’s credit that they never panicked though – Barkley levelled matters with his pearler and four minutes later a lovely move resulted in Coleman putting Everton ahead. Pienaar, who had another quiet game by his standards, shaped to shoot before slipping a delightful pass into the path of Jelavic. The Croatian’s shot was parried by John Ruddy but Coleman was the man on the move, taking the recovering Norwich defenders by surprise and ramming the ball home to provoke delirious scenes in the away end.

However, that joy was relatively short-lived. On 71 minutes Whittaker was again tres spawny, as the French say, as he completely miscued a volley that turned into a perfect cross for the lively Dutch forward Ricky van Wolkswinkel. That said, the laser-haired striker, whose name actually translates quite amusingly to ‘wolf’s winkle’ still did brilliantly to guide his header into the far corner of the net.

Martinez gave a nod to his predecessor at that point, replacing Mirallas with the shaven-headed Steven Naismith. If Barkley at times looks like the young, strutting Paul Gascoigne, Naismith actually resembles the supporting-a-nutty-gunman-disgracing-himself-in-hotel-bars-bucket-list-favourite Gazza of the here and now. Seriously, he almost makes Danny Murphy look well.

The Scot did see a decent chance blocked by Ruddy though, before Jelavic’s attempt to bladder home the rebound struck a defender. Jelavic was then replaced by Aroune Kone, but he’s clearly still famished, as he struggled to make any impact in the late stages. Coleman had another shot snake narrowly wide but there was to be no breakthrough at the end for Everton.

Martinez was only left to try and deal politely with Delia Smith’s infamous wandering hands in the boardroom afterwards before returning to Merseyside with the rest of the Evertonians, pleased with the way his team shaped up in what everyone had down as a difficult game to open the season with.

Chris Hughton, who is increasingly looking like Gustavo Fring from Breaking Bad, said he thought a draw was a fair result, but he was clearly talking shite.

Goodison is going to be buzzing for this game against West Brom next week.

Norwich Preview

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In the words of Hank Kingsley, hey now.

The waiting is all but over and the Premier League Game of Death is about to commence in earnest. And nothing says let’s get ready to rumble in the most moneyed season of the richest league in the world than putting up a new sign on your stadium that makes it look like a Falls Road amateur boxing club or a really stabby South London community centre.

Do these things get approved with a big rubber stamp that simply declares ‘THAT’LL DO’?

Thump. ‘Next!’

When it comes to the football itself, well, as we’ve said all summer, this really does feel like a leap of faith. Roberto Martinez represents a massive unknown quantity and although he has made some additions around the edges of his squad, he begins with more or less the side that finished sixth in the Premier League last season, and that could be viewed as either a blessing or a curse.

On the face of it, Everton’s consistently decent league finishes in recent years are proof that he has good players; certainly better than those he was in charge of at Wigan Athletic. However, expectations are that much higher at Goodison as a result and any deviation from the usual 6th/7th placed finish is going to sit squarely with the new manager.

The hope is that he can take the solid, professional unit he inherited and bring some degree of attacking, passing panache that will provide that extra element has held us back from winning the big, key games and qualifying for Europe consistently.

On the other hand the worry is that his adherence to a certain style will reduce the squad to the sum of its parts and undo the things that made Everton such difficult opponents for even the biggest teams in the country over the last decade, especially at Goodison. Because that will be the acid test for the new boss – next week against West Bromwich Albion, not this opener versus Norwich.

After all, you can always find excuses at away games in the Premier League, because they are still notoriously difficult to win. Unless you are one of the super-rich top three, most victories away from home are considered something of a bonus and the majority of managers are reasonably happy with a point on their travels.

Everton murdered Norwich for large portions of this fixture last season before some weird American came on who almost had to ask which way they were kicking, he was so new to the side, and caused fucking havoc, despite being patently shit. The upshot was a Norwich winner four minutes into injury time which seemed to signal the absolute final straw for a portion of Blues in terms their tolerance of David Moyes. It wasn’t helped that it was scored by that mallet-headed ming Grant Holt.

GRANT HOLT!

Going back to the difference between results home and away, it’s still at your own ground where the mood at the club is set. Goodison simply has to remain a bastard of a place for visiting teams and Martinez desperately needs a winning start next week to set the fans’ minds at ease. That might seem harsh, but that’s the way the game works now. It’s all about perception, and the likeable Spaniard has to come across as someone who can, first and foremost, win games. Otherwise he will find out rather quickly that picking out the positives of a narrow defeat won’t wash here.

Oddly enough though, his style might actually be more suited to playing away from home and hitting teams on the break. Wigan’s most memorable results always seemed to come like that anyway.

That’s all a roundabout way of saying that absolutely anything could happen on Saturday and in the coming weeks. Which is sort of exciting but also a bit terrifying at the same time.

Fingers crossed though that we get off to a flyer, to settle the nerves of the players, the fans, and probably the new manager himself.

Finally, a small editorial note. This website would like to go on record once again as one that thinks, admission prices aside, that the Premier League is fucking ace. All the stuff that everyone moans about is actually the game’s lifleblood at the top level. Stupid money, endless scandal, gobshite players and outrageous behaviour – some cunt bit someone live on telly last season! – you absolutely love it you dirty soccer slags.

You all pretend you don’t but you talk about almost nothing else. Or have you been too engrossed with the Athletics World Championships in Russia to even notice the season starting? Hmm? (Let’s be honest, no one even knew that was taking place until Stephen Fry mentioned it.)

Just as one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist, one man’s football Judas is another’s back-of-the-Echo-holding-up-a-scarf hero, and another man’s shitty kick off is someone else’s Super Sunday. Just don’t make the age-old mistake of saying ‘modern football is no good’ because your team is last.

Strap yourself in bitches, this shit’s about to get real.